We’re excited to publish a guest blog by digital signage industry expert, Dave Haynes. Spectrio acquired Sixteen:Nine, of which Dave is the founding editor. Dave remains an unbiased industry expert and we’re honored to be able to dedicate our blog to his unique and impartial opinions. In this blog, Dave offers his insights into the digital signage events he recommends attending.
Being an industry observer, commentator and general smart-ass require that I pay attention to what’s going on, and also go to a lot of trade shows and conferences to see new products and hear new ideas and insights.
I get asked, often, about which events people involved in digital signage should attend, and my answer tends to be qualified.
There are some obvious shows, but even those events shouldn’t be regarded as automatics, because what’s being demo’d and talked about might not be all that relevant to the people attending.
The Biggest Digital Signage Events
The biggest pro-AV show in North America is called InfoComm, and there is a larger, sister show called Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). InfoComm goes back and forth year by year between Las Vegas and Orlando, while ISE has relocated from Amsterdam to Barcelona.
Both are shows aimed primarily at people who work directly in some aspect of the professional AV world. That might mean they are active in digital signage, but there are big areas – even dedicated halls in venues – devoted to things like live event lighting and rigging, microphones, and smart buildings.
You could walk into InfoComm and find yourself walking by a stand that is marketing fog machines for concerts and clubs, for example.
With both shows, digital signage is a substantial component, but you have to look for it. The major display manufacturers and the mounting and gear firms related to displays all take out big exhibits at these shows, but they are also there to talk about everything from desktop monitors to workplace collaboration whiteboards. They don’t all hive together in a digital signage zone, as much as the show organizers try to designate areas like that.
The Take Aways
End-users who want to see the latest advances in displays will find value in shows like InfoComm because they will be able to see full-sized LED video walls, super-thin LCDs and OLEDs, and emerging technology like transparent and semi-transparent displays.
In a lot of cases, however, those end-users are being stewarded by AV integrators, solutions providers, and consultants, giving them a curated look at what’s new and relevant to them.
So I would say these shows are more tuned to technical people, especially with respect to the conference/education side. There is a lot of credit and certification-based training going on, but far less in the way of real-life case studies and panels about, for instance, retail digital signage and content development.
Digital Signage Events Off the Beaten Path
There is a dedicated digital signage industry show, called Digital Signage Experience (DSE). It is a rebooted version of a long-running show called Digital Signage Expo, and its owners have been trying to bring it back to life in the midst of the pandemic.
It’s much smaller than InfoComm or ISE, but digital signage is the only subject on the show floor and in conference sessions. The event was set to run in March 2022, but COVID-19 has pushed it back to Nov. 2022.
Because it will be a reboot, it’s hard to characterize what attendees will see and experience. But broadly, DSE is less about technology and more about learning and networking. A lot of industry people appreciate having an event that brings the ecosystem together and makes it possible to have a lot of customer, vendor, and partner touches in two or three days.
But attendees will see a fraction of the physical display technology on exhibit at the larger shows.
Events Designed for Digital Signage Experts
I have attended a show called Display Week, which is run by the Society for Information Display. It is NOT an event for non-technical people. I have sat down in technical sessions, looked at the algebra or whatever it was that engineers had on presentation slides, and realized I was in way over my head.
But for people who know display technology, and want to see products at the R&D stage, it’s THE place. I have seen things like microLED and light field displays that will maybe – perhaps years from now – be mainstreamed.
I coach people who ask me about trade show decisions – as buyers or sellers – to look first at the big shows in their sector or vertical market.
People in convenience retailing should go to NACS, the big c-store trade show. There is a monster show – HIMSS – for health IT. The National Retail Federation’s Big Show in January serves the technology side of retailing. People who go to G2E in Vegas will see a lot of specialty and interactive displays and software aimed at the casino/gaming business. Restaurants have their own shows. So do airports. So does higher ed. And so on.
Things to Know Before Attending
There may not be that many exhibitors and people at these shows that know and do digital signage, but those who are there will understand that industry and have products partly or entirely tuned to it. For companies who target a specific vertical industry, being at that industry’s show may be more important than being at a general AV/signage event.
But vertical market shows can easily be a bust for people, especially for sellers who go, hoping to meet buyers and learn things. The retail show GlobalShop is a perfect example. It’s a great show for retail merchandisers and designers and has digital components – because static messaging on retail floors is very gradually evolving to digital.
Walking into GlobalShop, however, means walking into an exhibit hall filled with companies that make the sales floor infrastructure for retail, especially fashion retail. There are many booths filled with mannequins and hangers and slat wall shelving and on and on. If you see digital signage, you probably just stumbled onto a booth that has it.
How to Successfully Navigate Digital Signage Events
My main advice, which may seem obvious, is to really think about the needs and goals that might be addressed by attending or, in particular, exhibiting at a trade show. It’s not enough to see an event, confirm it covers digital signage, and then start making plans and securing budgets.
Study the exhibitor list, the floor plan map, and the agenda. See who’s speaking and how many people attend. A giant crowd doesn’t mean the show is right. For example, CES is an interesting waste of travel time and cost in the context of digital signage, unless you have a burning need to see the latest TVs.
And finally, ask people who have been to these shows and know what fits. Which is, I guess, why I get asked.